Waverley - the last paddle steamer in the world

Living History

Waverley - the last paddle steamer in the world

The Waverley is the last seagoing passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world. Built in Glasgow in 1946, her original working life until 1973 was sailing from Craigendoran on the Firth of Clyde to Arrochar on Loch Long. She now operates passenger excursions around the British coast.

Waverley was built to replace an 1899-built PS Waverley, which served in World War II and was sunk in 1940 whilst evacuating troops from Dunkirk. The new 693-tonne steamer was launched by A & J. Inglis of Glasgow in October 1946 - and is named after Sir Walter Scott's first novel.

The vessel worked for the London and North Eastern Railway from June 1947, plying the LNER's Firth of Clyde steamer route from Craigendoran Pier, near Helensburgh, up Loch Long to Arrochar, and was very popular for daytripping.

The 1960's led to the closure of many small piers, and a decline in passenger numbers, due to a gradual change in holiday habits. Caledonian MacBrayne Ltd, who then owned PS Waverley, withdrew her after the 1973 season. A registered charity had been set up - the Paddle Steamer Preservation Society (PSPS) - and Caledonian Macbrayne sold the ship to them for just one pound. The only stipulation was that PS Waverley - should she ever return to steam - should not compete with their remaining cruise vessel.

A successful fundraising operation and public appeal resulted in the PSPS launching "Waverley Excursions" - a cruise ship operation - in 1976. Since then she has had a series of refits and much restoration work, to meet modern safety standards.

She has circumnavigated Britain, and makes sailings around the country each year. She regularly sails from Glasgow and other towns on the Firth of Clyde, the Thames, the South Coast of England and the Bristol Channel. The Waverley also undertakes private charters. Typically her Clyde timetable ends at the end of August, and Waverley then spends six weeks between September and October cruising the Bristol Channel, the Solent and the Thames before returning to the Clyde for two sailings in October.

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